Lena Dunham is everywhere. Everywhere. I mean, I’ve seen her breasts more than I think I’ve seen my own in the past few days – although admittedly, I have been having a marathon GIRLS catch-up this week. Since the kooky show dropped its pilot on the world in 2012, Dunham has become this burgeoning beacon of ‘hope’ for the media: but, I have to ask, is this the kind of hope we really want? I started watching GIRLS about a year ago now, in quick succession, and the overbearing sense of ‘wait a minute, this is supposed to relate to me!?’ prevailed throughout. The show follows four New York-dwelling early-20s ‘GIRLS’; three-quarters of whom are presented as absolutely abhorrent, over-privileged twits. Let’s do a little character run-down:
- Hannah (as played by Lena Dunham)
Main character – main bugbear. Hannah is depicted, on the very fine top onion layer, as your typical neurotic 20-something: confused, fighting her way into the big bad world, neurotic – you get me. However, early in the first series, we discover that – oh fresh hell: Hannah is getting ‘cut off’ from her parents and will now have to fight her own financial battles. Instant dislike. If, like me and the majority of the people I’ve ever known, you’ve been living off your own back (give or take the government’s help for uni alone), since the tender age of 18, Hannah’s plight will evoke nothing but aggressive malteaser-pelting at your TV screen. The sense of entitlement that absolutely resonates from every HD pore of these characters just really puts me off. Hannah is brattish, obnoxious and ultimately selfish. I know living in NY is supposed to do that to people, but jeez guys… seriously?
Dunham consistently seems to write herself into character scenarios that, in the stark light of reality, just wouldn’t ever happen. The biggest one of these has to be the time she ends up sleeping with the stereotypically very attractive older man and staying at his apartment for the weekend. Now, this may just be my internalised self-deprecation and institutionalised sexism but, in the real world, whether I am being cruel or not – Lena Dunham, nor Hannah Horvath would ever pair up with that guy. Maybe it’s supposed to be ironic? Maybe it’s supposed to show real girls doing the things that we generally only see on TV? But I am so fucking sick of seeing her breasts by now. And yet I’m still watching away in Series 3.
- Shoshannah (Zosia Mamet)
The one saving grace of character: Shosh. If it wasn’t for her, I’d have probably thrown the towel in by now. Yes, she may be over-the-top and constantly spouting insane quips that, if your friends in real life started saying – you’d probably have them sectioned by now. Yes, she may sometimes seem as narrow-minded and shallow as the rest of them (e.g. starting a conversation about how her neckerchiefs may just be her best collection) – but she gets away with it. Predominantly due to the fact that she doesn’t psychobabble every other sentence, or make out she’s the guru of the world like Jessa.
- Jessa (Jemima Kirke)
Speaking of. Fighting her way into the lead position for my biggest GIRLS character disdain is Jessa. Jessa is like that girl you know who’s snorted a few lines, banged a good 40+ guys and hell, maybe even had a threesome – but then, they see this as entitlement to be the smuggest, most unfoundedly ‘world-wise’ twit known to any guy going’s manhood. She is the know it all that, contrary to her allegedly wise and all-seeing ways, has no job – ever – and by Series 3, is even getting screamed at by Shoshanna for doing sweet fudge all. Are we really making role models here? I just do not understand what this show was trying to convey. And she punched Roy from the IT Crowd. Unforgivable.
- Marni (Allison Williams)
I’ve just realised that every character’s initials are the same for their first and surname. Really now? Marni is the ‘beauty’ of the group – she’s stereotypically tall, skinny, attractive – but still, all she does is whine. Is this program simply a social commentary implying that all girls ever do is whine? She begins the show in a promising light – the only one with a responsible job at an art gallery, but soon that goes under and she ends up scrabbling like everyone else. What I want to know is – how is everyone affording to live in NYC on invisible funds? If I thought all you had to do was excessively whinge and say vapid prophetic nonsense to live in New York, I’d be there in a heartbeat. For all the gritty realism of this show, this loophole never fails to baffle me.
What is the purpose of GIRLS? Is it simply an excuse for Dunham to just play out her life in a visual “memoir” just like her character in the show? Why isn’t it renamed the Lena Dunham show? Either way, I just can’t help myself from loving to hate and hating to love it…
Are you a true fan, or are you stuck perilously on the fence like me?
(oh and just to make it more fashion-related, here’s my favourite Lena Dunham wardrobe mishap):